Review: Cue Sports: Snooker Vs Billiards (WiiWare)

Will Hudson’s Cue Sports have you cueing-up to buy it or leave you snookered?

Hudson’s Cue Sports aims to add a degree of fresh realism in contrast to Gameloft’s Midnight Pool, which is a much more light-hearted affair. Will its boast of Wi-Fi support and extensive game modes give it the edge as the definitive cue sports game on WiiWare?

The main mode and attraction of Cue Sports has to be ‘Matchup’, which offers Wii owners the chance to play variations of well-known cue sports, including Snooker, 9 Ball, ‘Rotation’ and 8 Ball (commonly known as ‘Pool’). The first game, Snooker, is played on a large table with six pockets, and involves the alternate pocketing of red and coloured balls, with each giving different points (red being the lowest at 1 point and black being the highest at 7). These points tally up a score that decides the winner of the frame after every ball has been cleared. This mode offers a lot of entertainment, especially when playing with/against a friend, whereas playing against the computer lacks a little bit of personality and can get quite dull after a while. The other three modes in Matchup offer something a little different which ensures the formula doesn’t become too stale. Don’t worry if you’re not accustomed with the rules of each game type though, as a brief explanation is given when choosing your mode of play.

Obviously the key to making an enjoyable snooker game lies in how successfully the Wii Remote is utilised as the sole controller, and thankfully Cue Sports doesn’t disappoint too much here. Similar to the aforementioned Midnight Pool, the game employs the Wii Remote to act as a virtual cue, asking you to pull the controller back and thrust it forward to manipulate the power of the shot, after using the D-Pad to alter the direction and using the Remote’s pointer to choose a position on the ball to hit. This permits the player to realistically add spin or perform a trick shot. This control method works well for the most part, but there is a noticeable issue with using the D-Pad to choose the direction. Most likely because of the developers’ intention to allow for very precise shots, moving the cue left and right can take a ridiculously lengthy time because it slows down as it moves over each ball on the table. This can result in the cue taking up to 15 seconds just to rotate 360°, and becomes very tedious, especially at the start of games when the balls are scattered everywhere on the table. The D-Pad is also used to manage how hard the ball is hit. This allows for more precise power-gauging since using the Remote for power isn’t quite as intricate as it probably should be -- pulling back not always being recognised by the game.

A significant issue lies in the camera: when taking a shot, a first-person view is always shown with the option to have a top-down view of the table. This can be very restrictive, and a more free-form camera would have been much appreciated for tougher shots.

Impressively, the game offers many more modes, including Practice, where you can learn the basic controls as well as how to play each of the four main games. In addition to this a Puzzle mode is present, offering 50 challenges of increasing difficulty, with each new one unlocked after finishing the previous puzzle; an example of an early challenge requires two balls to be pocketed using a single shot, and each challenge following this employs the same format. Within this mode a nice little addition is the ‘Create a Puzzle’ option, allowing the player to create their own challenges along the same lines as the pre-made puzzles. Although a welcome feature that undoubtedly adds to the game’s longevity, it doesn’t go quite far enough in taxing the player’s imagination, offering fairly limited customisation options, which is a bit of a shame. It also doesn’t feature a story mode, which is a bit of a mystery considering the multitude of other game modes.

Notable are the extensive options, most of which allow modifications to individual games within Matchup. Also, when choosing how many players will be participating, you can add a handicap to any player (COM or human-controlled), allowing those unfamiliar with the concept of the game to join in on the fun. Following this, you have the option to change to one of three venues, as well as the ability to alter the ball set, table design and racks (frames) needed to win a game. Unfortunately, none of these options can be previewed before entering a game, so it’s basically a backwards-forwards job from a new game to the main menu so you can see all it has to offer in this department. This customisation is much appreciated, especially in Practice, which allows many rules to be altered and gives the player an opportunity to set up games just the way he/she wants. Additionally, a simple but worthwhile addition to Cue Sports is the ability to save a replay of any shot you make and then watch it from the main menu, with more than enough spaces available to save your favourite shots.

Cue Sports’ most noticeable flaws lie in its overall presentation. The sound, while suiting the nature of the game, is very repetitive with the same one or two jazz tracks being constantly played. It’s catchy enough but it would have been nice to see a few other pieces of music being thrown in to mix it up a bit. The graphics are solid and consistent throughout, but it’s fairly standard stuff really and lacks any real charm. As a result of this, Cue Sports gives off a very dull and uninspired vibe, with atmosphere being practically non-existent during games. This is especially clear when we compare it with the over-the-top charm of Midnight Pool’s characters and varied locations.

A much appreciated feature of Cue Sports is the addition of online play via Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, which was noticeably absent from Gameloft’s pool title. Within this mode you can choose to play each of the four main game types against another player or team up with someone else for 2v2 games. Although finding a game through the standard worldwide search proved unsuccessful on several attempts, the matches which were completed online went very smoothly, without any lag whatsoever and minimal loading screens throughout the frames. A 45-second timer prevents the player having to wait too long for their next chance to have a shot, as a foul is committed if an attempt is not made within this limit. This online mode may be the feature that gives Wii owners a reason to download Hudson’s game over Midnight Pool.

On the whole, Cue Sports is a solid adaption of the ‘sport’. Although playing by yourself is enjoyable enough, 4-player multiplayer is great fun and will be the main reason you’ll be coming back to it again for a few frames now and then. For 800 Wii points Cue Sports offers enough modes and features to satisfy the pricing. However, the game is definitely not perfect - the presentation is considerably lacking and the controls could be slightly more polished than their current state, but this certainly doesn’t detract from the substantial package you’re receiving.

Conclusion

For die-hard fans of snooker, billiards and pool, Cue Sports does the job nicely and may even be preferred to Midnight Pool because of its more serious nature and the addition of full on-line multiplayer. If you can overlook the flaws there’s a very rewarding game here that offers something a little different for newcomers as well as veterans of the genre. If only Hudson had been able to match the charm and atmosphere found in Midnight Pool it would have made the whole package a bit more enticing.

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